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Atmospheric Water Harvesting Tool


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Human Systems 

OBJECTIVE: Develop novel technology to efficiently harvest drinking water for individual warfighter application, where an expedient, lightweight, reliable, safe, and low or no power technique is critically needed. 

DESCRIPTION: Clean water scarcity is a significant challenge to the Warfighter, particularly in arid and desert climates. Improved water self-sufficiency, which will supply safe potable water to a small squad without the logistical burden of re-supply, is highly desirable and is a priority for all Services. Supporting Service documentation demonstrates the need to improve access/procurement technologies for clean drinking water; atmospheric water harvesting technologies can fill this capability gap.3 There are 12,800 trillion liters of water available in earth’s atmosphere.4 According to the US Army Combined Arms Support Command Force Development Directorate’s Water Planning Guide, in both conventional theater tropical or arid environments the required amount of drinking water for sustainment is 3.3 gal / person / day (12.5L / person / day).4 Emerging materials and technologies in water harvesting such as metal-organic frameworks (MOF) can extract from this renewable resource in order to meet warfighter needs for clean, fresh drinking water.5 Strategies/technologies for water harvesting i.e., metal-organic frameworks, hydrogels, and other materials suitable for drinking water shall be identified, conceptualized and tested. A high fidelity breadboard model shall be evaluated in a simulated environment to validate the viability of the approach. It is desired that this small, portable individual atmospheric water-harvesting unit would support the individual warfighter, generating up to 14L of water / day to augment soldier hydration at the point of need. For example, the unit could use novel sorbent materials (such as MOFs, hydrogels) to capture water vapor at low relative humidity conditions (under 40% relative humidity (RH)) and then condense and collect the captured water, generating potable drinking water. If the unit is powered, it shall consume less than 0.5 kg of fuel daily and be capable of operating day or night with little to no noise emission and not generate an undesirable visible or thermal signature. Additionally, the proposed weight of the unit (<20lbs) is less than the weight of carrying 14L of water into the field (~30.8lbs). This would reduce weight and allow for multi-day missions without resupply. This capability would also protect warfighters from illness due to intentional or unintentional water contamination since the water would be self-generated from the atmosphere. This technology could also be scaled up to provide self-generated potable water for the squad level in the field. The design shall be intrinsically safe (possess anti-microbial features, capable of being sanitized and/or disposable), provide hygienic functionality, convenience, and affordability (i.e. target production cost of $100 or less). The use of consumables or supplemental materials shall be avoided and the device shall also operate in environmental extremes (20F to 125F). The technology should provide a novel personal water harvesting capability that improves water production capabilities, increases self-sufficiency and reduces the requirement to transport water to the warfighter, ultimately enhancing maneuverability, security and readiness. 

PHASE I: Develop a proof of concept capable of demonstrating the performance outlined above. Establish the feasibility and practicality of the proposed design, materially demonstrate and validate the concept through testing. A preliminary cost analysis be completed based on projected scale-up and manufacturability considerations. A final report shall be delivered that specifies how requirements will be met (including mitigation of risks associated with factors limiting system performance). The report will detail the conceptual design, performance modeling and associated drawings (Solidworks® format), scalability of the proposed technology with predicted performance, safety and human interface (MANPRINT) factors, and estimated production costs. The projected technical readiness level (TRL) shall achieve a TRL of 3 and provide a clear path to Phase II/III and follow-on commercialization. 

PHASE II: Refine the technology developed during Phase I in accordance with the goals of the project. Fabricate and demonstrate an advanced prototype for the target warfighter application, verifying that the desired performance is met. Provide a report, associated drawings and control software/source code, if applicable, documenting the theory, design, component specifications, performance characterization, projected reliability/maintainability/cost and recommendations for technique/system implementation. Deliver a full scale prototype to support Army technical, operational, environmental and safety testing in the target application by the end of Phase II. An updated production cost analysis shall be completed and design for manufacture considerations shall also be projected to support advancement of TRL and associated Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL). The operational characteristics of the water harvester shall be provided to validate the feasibility of the approach and support transition to military and commercial applications (Phase III). 

PHASE III: The proposed technology innovation and associated manufacturing capability will overcome the present technology gap and be rapidly transitioned to both military and commercial applications, where a self-contained, high efficiency, and long life technology will lead to renewable personal water harvesting unit for individual warfighters or squad units, as appropriate. The Phase III is expected to advance the proposed innovation to a TRL of 7 or higher, supporting a system demonstration in a relevant environment in the hands of the Soldier. As a progression of the Phase I that serves to prove out the novel development proposed, the Phase II should result in a full scale prototype deliverable, which will serve to validate the performance, feasibility and overall benefit to be realized through the proposed development initiative. Ultimately, the technology will be transitioned to the Squad or individual Soldier, where high efficiency, long life, and low cost technology is needed to maximize the performance, lethality and security of the Soldier through optimum hydration and nutrition in all operating environments. The Phase III represents concurrent (unfunded) commercialization of the technology that is expected to provide economy of scale, logistic, and other benefits that can be attributed to the proposed development. 


1: Farshid Bagheri "Performance investigation of atmospheric water harvesting system" Water Resources and Industry 20 (2018) 23-28.

KEYWORDS: Soldier Sustainment, Personal Water Harvester, Drinking Water Source, Manufacturing Processes, Manufacturing Quality 

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